People with social anxiety, let me guess… your calendar is full of events as we approach Christmas. You’re equal parts excited and terrified. You’re worried about who’ll be there. What you’ll wear. Who you’ll talk to. Even what canape' will end up stuck between your teeth (which no one will tell you about!)…
RELAX. I’ve got you covered with this extensive list of coping strategies that will see you wrangle and bring down the festively fed anxiety BEAST!
Let’s get into it!
Love yourself… hard!
Remember, social anxiety isn’t YOU and YOU aren’t it. It’s just something that has an impact on you. I always harp on about this concept because it’s liberating. It reduces the feelings of anxiety induced suffocation and quite literally gives you room to be YOU! Don’t beat yourself up, be PROUD of who you are! Know and believe all the things that are GREAT about… YOU!
Be organised but not obsessive
When it comes to the silly season, the key to quietening the anxious ‘noise’ is striking a balance between organising and obsessing. Sure, plan out your days. Record key dates, times, ‘to do’ list items and ‘to buy’ for people. Suss out your transport options if you’re heading somewhere unfamiliar. Make a phone call or two to seek confirmation on venues and the like, if you need to. But ultimately…. try to go with the flow! Take each day as it comes and focus on one event at a time. Obsessing over it all will just exhaust you and totally rob you of the end of year joy!
Attend the events you want and ditch the rest
Is this always possible? Of course not! I live in the real world, I get it. But…. where there is a choice, and where not going is the right choice for YOU (not your anxiety!)… politely decline the offer! Generally speaking we are under no obligation to attend Christmas parties and the likes so don’t get stuck in the “I shoulds” and the “I musts”. Listen to logic, not to anxiety.
Be aware of what you’re feeding your mind
Where focus goes, energy flows. Heard that one before? I LOVE IT! Essentially what it means in the context of social anxiety is that if you focus on negativity, self-loathing, destructive, fear inducing thoughts you’re going to feel negative, you’re going to hate yourself and you’re going to be terrified! Your brain WILL believe anything you tell it so anything you focus on will GROW! Don’t believe me? Check out this fabulous 4 minute video to see for yourself!
Bring yourself back into the room
If you feel your anxiety levels peaking do some slow deep breathing to lower your heart rate. You can also use grounding techniques to interrupt the toxic and unrealistic anxious thoughts. You might like to focus on all the different colours you can see in the room, the cool breeze blowing over your face, the taste of the meal you’re eating or the beat of the music you’re listening to. Grounding exercises help you tune into your senses and get back to reality.
Prepare a list of mantras
A good idea to get you pumping for a party or other event is to fall back to your MANTRAS! Mantras and affirmations are short, sharp statements which speak our truth and effectively rewire our brain, thus shifting its focus from old, unhelpful habitual thoughts to new EMPOWERING thoughts. After repeated use of mantras the brain will ultimately create new default thoughts. It will give you new examples… examples of why these NEW thoughts are true! Get it? So, here are some social anxiety based examples you might like to try (of course create your own if need be!)…
“I have plenty to offer the world”… “People enjoy speaking with me”… “Today I choose confidence”… “Feelings are not facts”… “I enjoy meeting new people”… “I am a friendly person”.
Name your anxiety and have a laugh at it
This technique is also another one I use a lot with my clients. Naming anxiety separates it from the person… you! By separating yourself from the anxiety you can effectively TAME IT! Let me give you an example of how this works… “Oh here we go, Felicia’s at it again!” or “Bye Felicia, you’re not coming with me today” or “No time for you Felicia, NO TIME!” or just “Bye Felicia!!!!!!!”. Humour really is a fabulous medicine and in the context of social anxiety it’s GOLD. Humour deescalates the situation and reminds your brain how ridiculous it’s being. But most importantly it decreases the perceived threat of anxiety induced overwhelm.
Know and BELIEVE you’ll be fine, despite any discomfort
Acknowledging social anxiety as a normal part of the human experience is HUGE. It reminds us that it’s ok to feel what we feel but it also gives us the choice to accept anxious feelings or to draw on different thoughts to produce BETTER feelings. At the end of the day no matter how many “what ifs” you come up with you can not control what happens at social events. Especially when Christmas, summer heat and alcohol are involved. Trusting that the event will be enjoyable AND survivable despite the unknown will do wonders for your mental health. Like ‘they’ say, often the things we fear the most are the things we NEED to do!
Accept that not everyone will like you
Ummmm yes! Of course some people won’t like you. Some people don’t like me either and I’m totally fine with that because my survival doesn’t depend on THEM… it depends on ME! Be logical for a moment…. do YOU like everyone? Right. If they don’t like you, who cares! Plenty of people do! Putting the keys to your worthiness in someone else’s pocket is self-sabotage 101! Own your place in the world girlfriend!
Focus on ‘serving’ others at events
This strategy won’t be for everyone. Or for every social situation. But, I wanted to include it because it’s something that brought on a HUGE mindset shift for me earlier this year when I was absolutely dreading having to deliver a rather personal speech to a bunch of total strangers.
What I did was tell myself that this event wasn’t about me. I chose to focus on the people who I was there to serve. To educate and to inspire. Thinking this way took the attention off ME and put it onto them. Effectively what I said to myself over and over was “This night isn’t about YOU! It’s about them!” This very statement allowed me to turn toxic nervous energy into healthy and fulfilling service.
In the context of a Christmas event you could use this example to shift the focus from self sabotage to KINDNESS! You might like to focus on being a better friend or colleague. You might say “How can I be a great friend to these people tonight?” or “What kind things can I say or do to show these people I value them?” or “What can I do for someone at this event that I would love for someone to do for me?” It might be really focusing on your listening and attending skills when chatting with someone, it might be offering someone a gift or buying them a drink. It might even be deliberately including someone who looks left out or upset. This mindset will take the 'performance' pressure off you, trust me!
So there you have it... 10 killer tips that will help you survive the silly season social calendar!
I hope they allow you to free up mental space for all the GOOD there is to enjoy over Christmas and New Year. If you'd like to read more of my work on anxiety you can check out these articles 7 Tips For Living With Motherhood Induced Anxiety and Living With Anxiety: Coping Strategies To Help You Thrive. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram for daily mental health inspo! It would be my absolute pleasure to have you tune in.
As usual, feel free to reach out to me for support. I'm here for you on this journey... cheering you on in your quest for a less anxious life! My services are available Australia wide because I believe ALL women deserve great mental health!
Until next week...
Yours in better mental health,
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!